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Although Heikki Kovalainen admits that he will miss Jarno Trulli at Caterham this year, the Finn is thoroughly looking forward to a new challenge in the form of Vitaly Petrov. Dismissed by Lotus Renault GP, the Russian switches to Caterham and is testing for the team for the first time in Barcelona on Wednesday.
Petrov’s replacing of Trulli had been expected long before it was officially announced last Friday, although the Russian had been waiting for the response of a slow sponsor. Caterham’s latest recruitment marks Kovalainen’s fifth Formula 1 team-mate after Giancarlo Fisichella, Lewis Hamilton, Karun Chandhok and the aforementioned Trulli.
“I got on really well with Jarno,” Kovalainen told GPUpdate.net in an exclusive interview. “I think we became good friends over these last couple of years, as obviously I didn’t know him so well before we were team-mates. I think, together, we pushed the team and worked very hard, on and off the track.
“Of course the decision was a team decision, it wasn’t anything to do with me. Now I work with Vitaly; he is a pro driver, so I think we will work well together and we need to work together to push the team forward. Of course, he is a strong driver as well, so I expect him to be pushing me, I will push him as well and I will try to stay ahead of him! It’s a normal situation, really.”
When questioned whether he now considers himself team leader, in-line with comments from Team Principal Tony Fernandes last year, Kovalainen replied:
“Vitaly will have the same service. Jarno had the same and there is no preference there. I am just happy that I have been able to, I think, earn my place in the team throughout these two years. When I arrived at the team I don’t think I was driving particularly well, my performance level was not particularly good at that time.
“I think I lost some performance in the early part of my Formula 1 career. Even in my first year at Renault in 2007, I don’t think I was performing as well as I had been in junior categories and the young, sort of ‘promising Heikki’ was missing. So I thought I had to take a step back to give me time to find the swing again, if you like.”
On Tuesday, Kovalainen’s running was cut back significantly due to a rear suspension problem. The Finn is spending the mornings and evenings of Wednesday and Thursday at the circuit, going training and playing golf when possible in the afternoons. He will be back in the car on Friday, taking over from Petrov.
The full, exclusive interview with Caterham’s Heikki Kovalainen will be available on GPUpdate.net next week
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